NBA players ended their union meeting today opposed to an age restriction, which could disrupt Commissioner David Stern's plans to stop the flow of high school players and college nonseniors into the league.
"The bottom line is we're not going to accept an age limit," said Brent Barry of the Chicago Bulls, a member of a six-man union committee formed to address the issue of players as young as 18 coming into the league.
One of the main issues at the union's annual meeting was whether there should be a minimum age for NBA players. About 50 players attended, and today's five-hour session was the longest of the three-day conference.
The players also voted today that no player, from the lowest-paid rookie to the highest-paid superstar, will be exempt from paying the so-called escrow tax -- up to 10 percent of their paychecks -- to the owners in the final three years of the current six-year collective bargaining agreement.
Such a tax will kick in if owners pay more than 55 percent of basketball-related income to the players in the 2000-01 season.
A side letter to the labor agreement calls for extended negotiations on the issue of college underclassmen and high school players entering the league, a trend that has increased considerably in recent years.
Stern has called for a minimum age requirement, perhaps 20.
"We don't want an absolute limit," said Michael Curry of the Milwaukee Bucks. "We want something that's fair to those who are ready."
Players threw out several ideas, saying the league could form some sort of minor league system similar to the one in baseball so that younger players can develop their games rather than sitting on the ends of NBA benches.
At least one player called for mandatory college education programs for players entering the NBA out of high school. Another proposed a mentor program using retired players who want to stay involved in the league.
"There isn't a one-rule-for-everyone answer," said veteran Danny Schayes of the Orlando Magic. "We need a system with the right alternatives for the right guys."